Associations sound pre-insulated pipework fire safety warning

Pre-insulated pipework that has been installed in a building, running up into a hole in the ceiling
BESA and TICA have sounded a warning about the fire safety of pre-insulated pipework in buildings (Image courtesy of BESA and TICA)

Two trade associations have called for more rigorous checks on the fire safety of pre-insulated pipework installed in buildings.

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and the Thermal Insulation Contractors Association (TICA) have jointly questioned the suitability of pipework normally used for underground and buried applications, such as primary heating networks, which is now being used for buildings.

They called it a “fundamental change in product application” which takes the products outside the scope of the quality standards normally applied to their performance.

PUR and PE insulants

They explained that building services pipe insulation specifications typically reflect the requirements of BS 5422 to ensure full compliance with Building Regulations. However, pre-insulated pipework systems typically use either PUR or PE insulants. These do not meet the fire performance criteria typically specified in building services applications.

In a joint statement, they said: “In addition, the one-size-fits-all approach to insulation thickness typically undertaken by manufacturers of pre-insulated pipework simply does not allow for the required flexibility to meet individual specification requirements.”

Both bodies are particularly concerned about the use of coiled flexible polyethylene insulated piping systems: “We have increasing evidence that these systems are being installed in high-risk buildings, such as large multi-residential buildings.”

‘Critical fire safety issue’

Graeme Fox, BESA’s head of technical, said: “This is a critical fire safety issue and both bodies were determined to present a united front to help protect best practice in building services installations.

“One of the important lessons learned from the Grenfell tragedy was that products may have been tested and certified, but not necessarily for the particular application in question.

“We would, therefore, expect all responsible supply chain firms to be able to provide details of how the Euroclass fire rating of the PUR/PE system was achieved and the arrangement of the insulants in the test to determine their exposure to heat and flame. We would also expect them to be able to evidence compliance with BS 5422 heat loss/heat gain tables clearly.”

Chris Ridge, TICA’s technical policy manager, said all responsible companies should be able to provide current Euroclass fire test certification for “the complete range of polyethylene pre-insulated pipework products”.

He added: “Looking ahead, we seek to challenge the wider industry to ensure that all pre-insulated systems meet the required standards. This should not stop at pre-insulated pipework but should also include pre-insulated ductwork products.”

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